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Six degrees of writing separation


When it comes to writing, I think we all have 'separation' issues.  Here are some of the more common ones, along with suggestions for how to deal with them:
 
#1 Separate your writing from your writing-related
Book signings, blogs, critique groups, going to conferences etc, are all important (and fun), but they come under the heading ‘Writing Related’. Make sure you schedule plenty of time for actual writing too. 
 
#2 Separate yourself from the outside world
Everyone has their own way of writing, but we all need a way to shut out the rest of the world so we can focus on the one we create in our heads and get it down on paper. Find a system which works best for you and stick to it. 
 
#3 Separate your story-teller from your internal editor
It’s hard to push on to the next page when you know things need fixing on the last one, but if you’re writing something new, let your story-teller finish the job first, then pass the whole thing over to your internal editor. It’ll save time in the long run.  
 
#4 Separate your self-doubt from your self-loathing
Self-doubt, as in ‘Is this good enough? Can I make it better?’ is a good thing. It keeps you on your toes and inspires you to work harder to improve your craft. Self-loathing, as in “I’m a terrible writer. I’ll never get published” etc, is a waste of your time. 
 
#5 Separate your ego from your, er… elbow.
If you ask for an honest critique, be prepared to receive one. It’s okay to disagree with feedback (though if a lot of people point out the same problem, you should consider the possibility that your work can be improved), but it’s not okay to be ungrateful or pig-headed.   And make time to help and encourage other writers. Chances are, someone did the same for you.  
 
#6 Separate your excuses from your “To do” list
Do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, whether you like it or not.
 
 
To some extent, I have trouble with all of the above, but by far the most difficult for me is #3. The best I’ve been able to manage is an uneasy truce between my story-teller and my internal editor. At the start of each writing session, the internal editor gets to read over the previous day’s work and make any changes it wants, but after that it has to hand control over to the story-teller for the rest of the session. 
 
How about you?
 
What are your ‘separation’ issues?





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Comments

( 50 comments — Leave a comment )
mikandra
Jan. 16th, 2010 09:18 am (UTC)
frankly, I very much doubt that any of these *should* be separated. The writer and the editor, for example. For some people, continuous editing is just how they work. It works fine for them, so why should they change what works for them? Just because someone says? Why?
jongibbs
Jan. 16th, 2010 09:42 am (UTC)
'frankly, I very much doubt that any of these *should* be separated.'

Lol, then don't separate them.

Thanks for sharing :)
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Jan. 16th, 2010 12:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
asakiyume
Jan. 16th, 2010 09:47 am (UTC)
Hey--I want my mood to be ecstatic too :D

This was an excellent list--very thought provoking. They all represent interesting continuums (continua?) Like from self-doubt-that-lets-you-keep-working-to-improve to self-loathing-that-undermines-your-confidence-to-continue.

For me, No. 2 rephrases itself as "separate yourself from outside voices" There's a lot of advice out there; sometimes it can make a din and drown out the storyteller. I have to not-listen to that voice and just write. After the story's down, I can think (judiciously, I hope) about the various advices out there and see how/if they might improve the execution of the story.

Encouraging other people is definitely a good thing. I am always so grateful that people are willing to share their writing, and there's always something interesting or thought-provoking or, in some cases, just awesome in people's work, and I like finding it and telling the people. Criticism is important too and it's through constructive criticism that we can improve, but it's nice for people to hear the things they've done that *work*, and I like telling people those things.
jongibbs
Jan. 16th, 2010 10:02 am (UTC)
Re: ecstatic. I just had some great news, but I've been asked to keep it to myself for now :)

For #2 I was thinking more about day-to-day distractions, but you're right. There's so much conflicting advice out there, it can get confusing.

I'm a great believer in catching people doing something right and encouragement is definitely one of those 'Pay it Forward' things, don't you think?
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jan. 16th, 2010 10:33 am (UTC) - Expand
faerie_writer
Jan. 16th, 2010 11:02 am (UTC)
Yeah, #3 is my cross to bear as well. My slightly OCD, perfectionist personality simply will not let me separate my editor and storyteller, so I've just learned to let the two coexist as one. This makes me an extremely slow writer (as I cannot go on to the next sentence until I don't hate the one I just wrote), but a very speedy revisionist. :)
jongibbs
Jan. 16th, 2010 11:14 am (UTC)
I found it easy to deal with once I forced myself to recognize it was a problem :)
(no subject) - faerie_writer - Jan. 16th, 2010 11:23 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 16th, 2010 01:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - faerie_writer - Jan. 16th, 2010 03:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
bondo_ba
Jan. 16th, 2010 11:44 am (UTC)
My main separation comes from separating word-generation from everything else. This includes editing, polishing, submitting, emailing editors, and everything non-drafting related (like the day job, women, friends, blogging, food, etc.).
jongibbs
Jan. 16th, 2010 01:59 pm (UTC)
I don't know about you, but I find it hard to change how I do things once I've settled into a groove.
lisa_schroeder
Jan. 16th, 2010 12:34 pm (UTC)
Wow, great list. I'm currently struggling with #1. Going to remedy that soonest! :)
jongibbs
Jan. 16th, 2010 02:00 pm (UTC)
Lol, I'm waiting for someone to point out the irony of me saying we might want to be careful of that one :)
bogwitch64
Jan. 16th, 2010 12:40 pm (UTC)
My eternal enemy is the phone. I have, at one time or another, struggled with all of the above, but I've made my peace with some and worked out others. It's that damnable phone!!!

Caller ID helps; I can see if it's one of my kids when it rings. It doesn't help that it rings on average of every 15 minutes or so. I can't silence the ringer or take it off the hook. After my son's accident that I didn't know about until he was on the ground for about 1/2 an hour, I will NEVER take the chance again!! (Yeah, it'll be years to come to any sort of peace with THAT one!)

Of all those awesome points you made, I think the writer-ego gets in the way more than anything else. Whether it's the self-loathing writer who things everything he does sucks, or the delusional writer who believes everything she does is perfection, it's the most dangerous of all the pitfalls, IMO.
jongibbs
Jan. 16th, 2010 02:04 pm (UTC)
I don't get too many phone calls, which is a sad reflection on my life in some ways, but a definite boon when it comes to not being distracted.

Also, I'm a little nervous of telephones since that time someone rang me when I was doing the ironing and I burned my ear :(
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Jan. 16th, 2010 02:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 16th, 2010 03:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Jan. 16th, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 16th, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Jan. 16th, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tracy_d74 - Jan. 16th, 2010 04:30 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 16th, 2010 04:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tracy_d74 - Jan. 16th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
maryjdal
Jan. 16th, 2010 12:43 pm (UTC)
2,4, 6 are my main issues. I never thought of self-doubt and self-loathing that way, but now I can see how one can easily fall into the other if you let it.
jongibbs
Jan. 16th, 2010 02:05 pm (UTC)
I think self-doubt can be used as a force for good or evil :)

Thanks for sharing :)
(Deleted comment)
jongibbs
Jan. 16th, 2010 03:06 pm (UTC)
Some people can write and edit at the same time, which is great - I wish I could.

csecooney
Jan. 16th, 2010 01:27 pm (UTC)
It's difficult, sometimes, to separate number 2 from the latter part of number 5. As the sheer number of my writing acquaintance grows, so does the amount of friendly, thoughtful critique that I want to - would love to - do. But there are only so many hours in the day, and I so badly want to use the few spare ones I have to write. Learning to juggle what I FEEL I should do (in the name of solidarity and out of gratitude for those who do the same for me), with what I YEARN to do (write. All the time. Write!).

What an interesting post! Thank you.
jongibbs
Jan. 16th, 2010 03:43 pm (UTC)
Lol, I never said it was easy :)

Thanks for sharing :)
(no subject) - csecooney - Jan. 16th, 2010 03:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 16th, 2010 03:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
peadarog
Jan. 16th, 2010 02:42 pm (UTC)
4 5 6...
jongibbs
Jan. 16th, 2010 03:44 pm (UTC)
Well, at least you've got the first three beat :)
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Jan. 16th, 2010 03:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
karen_w_newton
Jan. 16th, 2010 04:15 pm (UTC)
Separating myself from the characters. It's not something that bothers me now, but when I first started I had trouble finishing books. It took me a while to figure out that I was so fond of the main characters that I didn't want their lives to end-- because really, even if you don't kill them off, once the book is done, their lives stop. Unless, of course, you write a sequel...


bogwitch64
Jan. 16th, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
Which is why my first series was 18 books long!!!
(no subject) - karen_w_newton - Jan. 16th, 2010 04:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 16th, 2010 04:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - tracy_d74 - Jan. 16th, 2010 04:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 16th, 2010 04:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
tracy_d74
Jan. 16th, 2010 04:38 pm (UTC)
Mine is the self-doubt issue. It is my life-long struggle with EVERYTHING. In some ways it propels me forward, makes me keep trying to prove to myself I'm ok. The problem is, even after I get validation I try to find the flaw in the validator's perception.
jongibbs
Jan. 16th, 2010 04:43 pm (UTC)
That second part sounds more like self-loathing to me.

We all suffer from it to some extent. Once you recognize it, send it on its way with a kick up the bum :)
(no subject) - tracy_d74 - Jan. 16th, 2010 05:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
maeve_the_red
Jan. 16th, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
Excellent list. And it's #3 for me too. That's an ongoing battle.
jongibbs
Jan. 16th, 2010 05:33 pm (UTC)
I don't know about you, but I've found just being aware of the problem helped me deal with it.
wordsrmylife
Jan. 16th, 2010 07:05 pm (UTC)
I think you've pretty much covered it. #3 is why I'm trying something I'm calling "making marble" for my current project--getting it down 3rd person, even though I know that's not the way I want the final product to be. I just want to blatt the story out so tht I can then get to work shaping it. I'll let you know how that works.
jongibbs
Jan. 16th, 2010 07:16 pm (UTC)
It's funny, when I didn't know what I was doing it wasn't a problem at all, but the more cool stuff I learned, the harder it was to keep on going through a novel because I wanted to go back and re-polish what I'd done so far.

Good luck with the blatting :)
lunalila
Jan. 18th, 2010 01:46 pm (UTC)
Self doubt is my worst bone to chew yet.
I've organized the editing in a way it doesn't stop the story teller and it seems to be perfectly content. I write a really fast first draft, in a month or so (started during a NaNoWriMo so you can get the craze of that) and then work on other things for a month or so. After that I write a second draft, and allow internal editor to say as much as she wants. But this last time, I spent fifteen days with first chapter!
jongibbs
Jan. 18th, 2010 06:59 pm (UTC)
It takes me anything up to a year to finish a first draft, though a good 30% of that is spent on the outline.
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